Family of girl missing since 1972 endures lifetime of pain



http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/12260106.htm
Posted on Sun, Jul. 31, 2005
Family of girl missing since 1972 endures lifetime of pain
BY FRED GRIMM
The Miami Herald

Debbie disappeared in 1972: a child vanished from the streets of
Pompano Beach. So many years later, the suffering persists.

Her father, John Lowe, died of a heart attack in 1976. Just 45. His
family was sure his health had been undone by the unrelieved stress of
his child's disappearance.

Mother Hattie survived until 1995. Never escaped the torment. Never
escaped the need to find an answer. What happened that February day
when Debora Sue Lowe went missing?

BURDEN PASSED ON

The grief didn't end with her parent's death. Rather the burden passed
to the next generation.

Eva Newsome, 34, was barely a toddler when Debbie disappeared, so young
that her sister eludes memory. Yet she keeps looking. As if she
inherited the need to know.

And her older brother, James Lowe, still searches the Internet and
pursues leads and calls policemen.

In an odd coincidence, an e-mail from an Eva Newsome of Ohio seeking
information about a serial killer who preyed on girls and women in
South Florida around 1972 caught my eye about the same time a similar,
separate search by a James Lowe of West Virginia came to the attention
of Herald reporter Wanda J. Demarzo. Unknowingly, we were both pursuing
the same 33-year-old story. But the coincidence only speaks to the
intensity of a family's pain.

Fort Lauderdale police Detective John Curcio recognized the need for
answers: ``It's one of the things about these families of missing
homicide victims; I don't care if it's 30 years later.''

IT'S THE PAIN

He said the pain, as obvious as a fresh wound, keeps investigators
coming back to cold case files, with so many unsolved homicides,
missing children and a daunting collection of unidentified bodies.

The file of Debbie Lowe begins with a report of a kid who failed to
come home from school. Her parents called the Pompano Beach police, but
it was 1972. There was no Amber Alert. No network of police departments
geared to jump into action. No civic organization dedicated to finding
missing children. It was 1972 and Debbie's disappearance could be
shrugged off as a likely runaway. Her file at Pompano P.D. never grew
past four pages.

The family was new to South Florida. Just moved down from the hills of
West Virginia. Without influence to get the police interested, Eva
said. They felt helpless.

''We didn't have money to put up a reward,'' she said. ``My mother had
very little education. She grieved the rest of her life because she
didn't know what to do. Or where to turn.''

Worse, her mother felt she knew who might have snatched Debbie off the
street.

Eva said her mother had assembled a scrap book filled with newspaper
clipping recounting the crimes and victims of Gerard Schaefer, one of
South Florida's most brutal serial killers. Schaefer, a one-time Martin
County police deputy, had been linked to the deaths of 20 or more girls
and young women between 1969 and 1972, including at least two other
girls from Pompano Beach. His victims ranged in age from 9 to 25.

But to the Lowe family's enduring frustration, no police agency
investigated a possible link between Debbie's disappearance and
Schaefer (who was murdered by a fellow inmate at Florida State Prison
in Starke in 1995).

HUMAN REMAINS

Nor had there been much effort to link the long missing child against
the scores of unidentified human remains discovered over the years in
South Florida. Not until the family reached John Curcio.

Detective Curcio said last week that he has not yet found remains that
would seem to belong to a 13-year-old child. But the family has
submitted DNA swabs. All these years later, they're still looking for
Debbie. They still want an answer.

''I know that this could take a lifetime,'' Eva Newsome said. ``But I
have a 14-year-old son. He knows everything about this. If we don't
find out in my lifetime . . . maybe in his.''

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